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Police lady tracks drug users getting high in Huangpu

JOANNA Wang, 54-year-old neighborhood policewoman, monitors every former drug user who is released from treatment in Huangpu District. Some have had brushes with the law.

If there's any indication of renewed drug use, usually heroin, Wang and her fellows send the person back to drug rehabilitation centers.

She and her team handle around eight cases in the district.

Though she encounters a few new drug users, most of those on her list are old familiar faces who have been forced to give up drugs, at least for a while.

It's a big job.

"Once taking drugs, it's difficult to quit," Wang tells Shanghai Daily, "Psychological addiction is usually more severe than physical addiction."

First-time apprehended drug users are usually mandated to enter a six-month drug rehabilitation program. Addicts who relapse are returned for two to three years.

Detoxing and ending physical addition usually take three months, Wang says, but most relapse soon after they are released.

Some are taking drugs again in a couple of days after their release.

"They say they want drugs whenever they're depressed or bored," Wang says. "Months of boring life in a treatment center fuels their desire for excitement and emotional release.

"Even enforced treatment in the center cannot help them quit, let alone the 'home treatment' some families call on."

The only successful case that Wang knows of in her district is a young woman addict who was completely isolated from her old circle of drug-user friends. She was released after six months in a treatment center and her mother destroyed her address book, changed her phone number, moved her to a relative's home and had her followed whenever she went out. The young woman has been clean for almost eight years.

Most of the drug users and addicts are jobless and many steal to support their habit.

Since they are often absent from home, tips from neighbors and informants help police track them down and catch them.

Four or five police officers arrive on the spot after receiving a tip, and take the person to a police station for lab tests.

If tests come back positive, the person goes back into treatment for a long time. Keeping close watch on the person is essential. Since treatment centers don't accept people who are injured or ill, many drug users try to injure themselves before they get there. Some swallow keys, coins, buttons, or whatever they can find. If hospital treatment is long enough, around two weeks, the drug will no longer be detectable in their system and they can stay out of drug treatment.

A middle-aged drug addict even stabbed himself in the stomach with a broken beer bottle when police entered his room.

"We had no choice but to send him to the hospital immediately," says Wang, "and probably, he will escape the treatment this time as we couldn't test him in time."

Her task is harder, she says, as many young people are taking ice to get high.


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